Tikkun Daily button

Archive for the ‘Politics & Society’ Category



What is really happening in Venezuela?

Apr17

by: on April 17th, 2019 | 4 Comments »

Plaza Bolivar in Caracas, Venezuela

I just returned from 11 days in Venezuela, my sixth trip there since 2005.

Many people have asked me how they can understand what’s really happening in Venezuela based on information from public institutions such as the U.S. government and the mainstream media. Sources they have used include television ranging from Fox News to MSNBC and CNN; newspapers from the New York Times to more “progressive” publications; and radio from private ad-based to public listener-supported stations.

In order to analyze information today and in the future, there are three key points that most people in the United States and in Venezuela can agree on.

1 – No war. Even Venezuelans who did not vote for Nicolás Maduro do not want to be bombed or invaded. Ironically, the threat of military intervention has increased national pride and unity among Venezuelans. Many friends were worried for my safety and the safety of the 12-member delegation. After arriving I felt safer than I expected, and my main fear was about what the United States (my own country, that I love in so many ways) might do. Even in the U.S., most people do not want another Vietnam, or another Libya or Syria.

2 – End U.S. sanctions. Sanctions are a form of economic warfare. Sanctions kill, and children are primary victims. Food and medicines are greatly affected. Sanctions impede the ability of Venezuela – and other countries – to solve their own problems; and unilateral sanctions are out-of-line with the United Nations Charter.

3 – Respect other nations’ sovereignty. Both Venezuelans and people in the U.S. question the credibility of the U.S. government regarding its harsh critiques of Venezuela. The wealthiest country the world has ever known, the United States, has suffered from a growing gap between rich and poor, and from deteriorating schools, non-existent free neighborhood healthcare centers, infant mortality, high incarceration rates, and unjustified killings by police, along with questionable elections of public officials who could potentially solve those problems.

There are two additional facts: the U.S. cannot be the boss of the world, and recent “help” from the U.S. does not always help the people of the world. Other nations are letting us know this, more and more. When we are faced with Washington speeches and media pieces, we can keep these three key points and two additional facts in mind.

* * *

The answers to other questions were also revealed throughout my trip.

Why are the U.S. powers-that-be – both Republicans and Democrats – focused on Venezuela? The biggest reason is not oil. (Remember prior interference in non-oil-rich Cuba, Nicaragua, Haiti, Grenada, Chile, and others.) The problem is that Hugo Chávez was elected president in 1998, more than 20 years after the oil industry was nationalized in 1976, and he began to share the wealth with all Venezuelans, not just the already rich. Hugo Chávez led an electoral revolution and then he empowered Venezuelans through literacy programs, neighborhood healthcare centers, and a new constitution designed with citizen participation. Also, like the Venezuelan liberator Simón Bolívar 200 years before, Chávez spread empowerment across Latin America, and beyond, by creating institutions to counterbalance the enormous economic, cultural and political influence of the U.S.

Another disturbing reason is that because the U.S. still uses the obsolete, slavery-based Electoral College, neither Democrats nor Republicans want to alienate a group of swing voters in the swing state of Florida: upper-income Venezuelans who moved there and who organize with hard-line Cuban-Americans.

What was the most encouraging part of my trip to Venezuela? An increased appreciation of the strength of the Venezuelan people. They know from history, both recent and centuries ago, that they can prevail, and they are prevailing now. The self-proclaimed presidency of Juan Guaidó has not taken hold. The vast majority, even those who did not vote for him in May 2018, recognize that Nicolás Maduro is the legitimately elected President, and they know that most other countries – especially outside of North America and Europe – stand with them in recognizing Maduro’s administration. Which reminds me…

What are some key signs that predict U.S. intentions to interfere in a nation’s sovereignty? One sign is using the word “regime” rather than “presidency” or “administration.” Do we refer to Theresa May’s regime? Obama’s regime? Another key sign is using the term “humanitarian crisis” followed by offering “humanitarian aid” that even the International Red Cross and the United Nations recognized as politicized rather than helpful.

In closing, Venezuela is a sovereign nation whose people have experienced improved education, healthcare, and housing. Venezuelans have stayed strong, despite power outages and water shortages, despite sanctions and threats, all of which I experienced during the delegation. They want peace not war, an end to sanctions, and respect for their sovereignty so they have the means to address their own challenges.

Laura Wells blogs about the electoral and social revolutions in Latin America, and how they might apply to California and the United States. She is a Green Party political activist. For a “go to resource” on Venezuela, see venezuelanalysis.com.

This Just In: The Latest Dispatch from Surreal World

Nov30

by: on November 30th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

In the first part of last night’s dream, I was trapped in a building, but as soon as I began to wake up, I lost that image. What lingered was a swarming crowd, people rushing to join a mass on the horizon, gazes transfixed skyward. Huge fireballs were forming in the blue air, spinning as they fell to earth, landing somewhere out of sight. Voices began to sound, the ordinary tones of TV newsreaders: clear, oddly animated, slightly robotic. They described the scene around me, the completely unprecedented and unexplained rain of enormous fireballs, in exactly the same way they might tell a story about a road accident or a snowstorm.

Then they began to joke in the usual fashion of newsreaders: “Wow! The one that landed on highway 50 must have surprised those commuters.” “A whole ‘nother meaning to ‘hair on fire,’ huh, Ted?” As the inanities rang out, my brain threw out that ancient joke on the idiocy of reportage: “Aside from all that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

What came to mind as I emerged from the half-light of the dream was Doris Lessing’s short story, “Report on the Threatened City,” set nearly fifty years ago. It was framed as an alien dispatch, detailing failed attempts to warn the residents of San Francisco about an impending earthquake.

Then I was fully awake, thinking about the October UN report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the federally mandated National Climate Assessment released over Thanksgiving (presumably to bury its dire findings under a soothing blanket of mashed potatoes and gravy). Images surged: families tear-gassed along the border, election tampering and voter suppression, crooks in high places and much, much more. In Lessing’s story, governmental authorities are aware of alien attempts to warn the populace, but write them off as what is now called “fake news.” Ground-level resistance swells, but the result is conflict between camps of opinion, not action to avoid mass extinction.

And of course, nearly a half-century after Lessing’s story, San Francisco still stands.

With friends on Thanksgiving, we took turns around the table sharing whatever we wished—gratitude, if we could summon it, but whatever was true for each of us.

Some were certain that despite both the darkness of the moment, with a madman in the White House and moral cowardice swamping those best-positioned to stop him, despite the glimmers of light shown in recent elections, the worst is yet to come. The human project was spoken of as a failed experiment, the end of human life as a necessary cleansing, hope as a delusion.

Some were certain that the massive resistance and remarkable flowering of alternative visions, that the Great Mystery all of us have experienced but none of us can explain, the resilience, beauty, resourcefulness, and will to live built into the human subject will carry us through. Things will change, but the earth and the life it supports will abide, and fresh possibility will emerge. History justifies hope—action grounded in hope, to be sure, but hope nonetheless.

Some—myself among them—spoke of not-knowing. No matter how dire the predictions, how strongly rooted in scientific research, none of us can foretell the future. The end of life has been predicted many times, and always our challenge has been to live. This time may be different—indeed, it may be the end—but there is no more ground for that certainty than for its opposite, that humankind will be rescued by some remarkable and magical redemption not of our making. No one knows.

It is not my aim to persuade people that their predictions are wrong, that they are betting on the wrong horse, that a different future surely awaits us. I have no interest in debunking the science that points to the great likelihood of disaster. How could I? But likelihood is not certainty, because it cannot be known what healing actions—even what miracles—may follow the alarm that has been sounded. (Please check out the Green New Deal, for instance.)

I have one aim in these times, and that is to demonstrate the power of not-knowing, to stick a pin in the illusion that we can know what has not yet come to pass, and to raise the question of desire in the place of hope. What power will be released in the act of freeing ourselves from the delusion that we can know what has not yet unfolded? What gifts will we be able to bring to the moment if we stop believing our own predictions? Sitting with the awareness of not knowing—of the impossibility of knowing—what do we desire? Beginning with not knowing, how do we move toward our desire?

Hanukkah starts this weekend. During the holiday, we’ll have another chance to be with friends, to go around the circle and ask a generative question. The holiday marks the return of light from the darkness of winter, the miracle of a small amount of oil burning for eight days to light the repair of the temple destroyed by soldiers of the Seleucid Empire a couple of hundred years before the common era. Last Hanukkah’s question was, “What light do you wish to bring into the world?” Some people chose not to answer, refusing to validate what they saw as superstition. Some denounced the idea of bringing light as trivial, counseling us to bring on the fight instead. Most shared their hopes for the Great Awakening we all desire, even those who think to hope for it is foolish.

When I consider what to say this year, I think of shining a light of awakening on the newsreaders in my dream, to be sure, but also the countless voices in waking life who support, intentionally or not, the ordinary lies that insure us to suffering, that normalize absurdity and invite us into complicity with the indifference that perpetuates these delusions.

I am not much of a believer. I’m more given to desires, to questions, to exploration than to certitude. But I do have two convictions: first, that by joining our conscious intentions, speaking them aloud and allowing them to amplify each other, ring out, and spread, we can build energy, influencing actions to the good. Second, that if we align ourselves with the certainty of failure—if we abandon all hope despite the fact that the future cannot be known—we deplete the energy that animates healing. So at this season, I wish each of us the will to embrace not-knowing and spirit to let freedom ring!

In his amazing short essay, “The Creative Process,” James Baldwin wrote that “the war of an artist with his society is a lover’s war, and he does, at his best, what lovers do, which is to reveal the beloved to himself and, with that revelation, to make freedom real.” I’m deeply into Rev. Sekou these days. Think about the face of this nation as you listen to “Loving You Is Killing Me.”

Interdependence in Action: How to Change Agreements with Care

Nov28

by: on November 28th, 2018 | Comments Off

In 2004, a few days into the first of four week-long retreats of a yearlong program I was co-leading, one participant, who I will call Barbara, informed the program leaders that she was intending to leave the program after the first retreat, because it wasn’t what she had signed up for. To her surprise, we asked her to engage with the whole group about her decision before finalizing it. Barbara, who had lived in many cultures and came from a community-based tradition, quickly recognized the reality that her leaving would have an impact on the whole group, and thus accepted the challenge and invitation to engage in this process.

We then brought the topic to the group. Barbara laid out her needs that were not attended to within the program; other people brought up their needs and the impact of her potentially leaving and not coming back after that retreat. We’d been in process for a while when one woman exclaimed, in utter incredulity: “Wait a minute, but it’s her decision!” We replied: “No, if you take interdependence seriously, it’s not her decision alone to make.” The woman remained stunned, and we continued the process. At the end, we reached shared clarity that what it would take to attend to Barbara’s needs would stretch the program and the group too much, and we all accepted and mourned together the decision we made collectively for Barbara not to come back.

Something similar happened three years later with another participant who was astonished to discover that other people would be affected by him leaving and, at the end of the process, decided to stay. I am still in touch with this person, and I know from him that this process shifted something in terms of his understanding and experience of interdependence. In his case the situation is more pronounced, because he actually shifted his position based on the feedback he received, rather than reaffirming his original intention.

Engaging interdependently with others in the process of making decisions feels to many people like giving up autonomy. The freedom to make whatever decisions we want to make so long as we are not harming others is one of the core attractions of the modern world. I see it as a consolation prize for the loss of community and care.

Read more...

Dear Mississippi White People

Nov22

by: on November 22nd, 2018 | 2 Comments »

November 22, 2018

Dear Mississippi White People,

Both of my parents were born and reared in Mississippi. They were part of the Great Migration of African Americans north in the early 1950s. When I was a little girl, we would go south for funerals. For most of my life, I have never felt comfortable south of the Mason-Dixon Line. I was fine for about 48 hours, then something inside of me, something that felt like an old soul, the spirit of an enslaved ancestor, wanted desperately to head back home. Follow the North Star.

Even so, I have some good memories of my time in Mississippi. This is primarily due to my relatives, to aunts and uncles and cousins who made my time with them meaningful. One of the best memories of my life is getting up early one morning and having coffee with my Aunt Mary Anna on her front porch in Indianola. Her house was always full of people of all ages, and she would get up before everyone else and sit on her front porch. This morning, I was up with her, drinking coffee, listening to a rooster crow, enjoying her stories of reality and mystery. It was peace.

When I lived in Philadelphia, my Aunt Rosie would send me shelled pecans from her Indianola, Mississippi tree. I loved eating the pecans, and I loved her for loving me enough to take the time to shell them and to send them to me. God is Divine Love, and her love for me was a visitation of God in my life. Eating the pecans was a kind of communion.

A few years ago, I drove my father, who was then in his mid-eighties, down to Indianola for a funeral. The part of the cemetery where my cousin’s husband was buried was populated by the earthly remains of aunts who loved me and by cousins who I had enjoyed just being around and who had been my role models. Dad said that would be his final trip to Mississippi, and he was right.

One of my cousins invited me to come down when there was not a funeral and she would show me around. I wanted to visit the civil rights and the blues history of the Mississippi Delta. So, I finally did. My cousin was true to her word. We visited the Fannie Lou Hamer Museum and gravesite in Ruleville. She took me to the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, and she drove me to the various addresses in Greenville, where my mother’s family had lived. The last few times I have gone south, I have not felt the need to escape. I see my cousins living productive lives, making important contributions to their communities, and the south in general and Mississippi in particular no longer seem oppressive.

And then came the comments by Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith. Speaking about her regard for a supporter she said: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” What? Then she refused to apologize until a debate with her opponent Secretary Mike Espy, saying in part: “You know, for anyone that was offended by my comments, I certainly apologize. There was no ill will, non whatsoever in my statements. I have worked with all Mississippians. It didn’t matter their skin color type, their age or their income. That’s my record.” Then she proceeded to blame her opponent for turning her comments into a weapon. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/mississippi-sen-cindy-hyde-smith-apologizes-to-anyone-offended-by-comments-about-public-hanging-as-opponent-mike-espy-says-she-gave-the-state-a-black-eye/2018/11/20/6eeb3a14-ed0c-11e8-baac-2a674e91502b_story.html?utm_term=.c68bdc76a246)

Hyde-Smith has also been caught on mike joking, she says, about voter suppression. In 2014, she posted a picture of herself wearing a confederate soldier’s cap and holding a gun at the home and presidential library of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. She called the site “Mississippi history at its best.” Is this a celebration of the Civil War?

According to the website Mississippi History Now, “The American Civil War (1861-1865) left Mississippi in chaos with its social structures overturned, its economy in ruins, and its people shattered.” And, the reason for the devastation was the will to preserve slavery. The Mississippi declaration of secession says: “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest in the world.”

It is important to remember that the Civil War was fought with conscript soldiers. The Confederacy confiscated crops and livestock from ordinary people to feed the army, a generation of men were killed or left wounded. The south has yet to recover from the economic devastation of the war. Yet, so many white people are still enamored with that war.

In her novel “Gone with the Wind”, Margaret Mitchell writes of her heroine Scarlett O’Hara who is in love with Ashley Wilkes. She thinks he loves her, but he does not. The love she imagines is a dream. It is not and never was real. Such is the case with white people who love the dream of the “Old South”, a fantasy where everyone was happy occupying their assigned place. It never was, is not now, and never will be.

When I read Hyde-Smith’s comments about attending a public hanging, I was working on an essay about African-American soldiers home from World War I who faced beatings and lynching. How could anyone knowing Mississippi history not be offended by Hyde-Smith’s joke? What positive connotation can there be in a history rife with the violence of lynching? The violence of lynching was an attempt to re-establish white supremacy after the Reconstruction period. The violence of voter suppression is also real in a state where Fannie Lou Hamer and others took a beating because they wanted to register to vote. Civil rights workers were killed in their efforts to register voters. How could she think that joking about voter suppression would be funny given this history? How could she think such a thing as she runs for the United State Senate?

Then suddenly, like a flash of lightning, it occurred to me that the expression about attending a public hanging was probably an expression that Hyde-Smith heard in her youth. She very likely grew up with it, and it was a way to express regard for someone. Whenever I see pictures of a lynching, my gaze goes to the body of the person being lynched. I think of their family and of the African-American community that would resist being terrorized by such savagery. However, there is also the crowd of white people who thought of such events as entertainment. I have never considered the crowd as a group of individuals, only as a human mass of barbaric hatred and evil.

The truth is that these crowds were composed of people who had children and grandchildren, who were aunts and uncles and cousins, who loved their kin the way my people love me. Hyde-Smith very likely heard this expression from a beloved relative in a context of joviality and good family fun.

Dear Mississippi White People, you have some serious introspection to do. What is the origin of such an expression? Were the people who nurtured you and loved you also the people who populated the crowds that participated in public hangings by their presence on the front row? To what lengths are you willing to go to preserve a dream that was never true? Are you willing to keep your state at the bottom of the list of states on almost every measure of achievement because you want to hold onto the deception of white supremacy?

To even know that she has said something vile, Senator Hyde-Smith needs to do the difficult work of introspection and to realize that the people who raised her, who loved her, were also willing to become a part of a murderous evil mob because people will act in a mob the way they would never act as individuals. You all need to do this work for the sake of bringing about real and lasting change in Mississippi. This is your work to do White People because you are the ones holding onto a deception.

The good news is that we live in a country that allows us to make a choice with every election. We can choose to stay stuck in a past that has not served us well, or we can move forward. Dear Mississippi White People, this is your choice on Tuesday in the special election. In his proclamation that established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln called for repentance as an aspect of our prayers on this day.

He wrote: “And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

On this Thanksgiving Day, we all can be thankful that we live in the United States of America where we have both a responsibility and an opportunity to work for healing, to form a more perfect union, where we can work toward the goals of human equality and universal human rights.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Peace,
Valerie Elverton Dixon

 

 

 

 

Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of JustPeaceTheory.com and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”

Linda Sarsour, the Women’s March, & Anti-Semitism

Nov21

by: Rabbi Arthur Waskow on November 21st, 2018 | 4 Comments »

Image of Linda Sarsour courtesy of Mobilus In Mobili/Flickr.

In recent days there have been some calls from some people in the Jewish community to boycott the planned Women’s March on January 19. This call has been explained on the ground that some of the March leaders have been unwilling to specifically denounce Minister Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam for his many blatantly anti-Semitic views and speeches.

One of the March leaders cited in this call has been Linda Sarsour, an important leader of the Women’s March movement that became powerful the day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration as President, and onward from then.  Ms. Sarsour has not only spoken words but also taken action strongly condemning anti-Semitism.  She has, for example, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help repair desecrated Jewish cemeteries and to assist the survivors of the “Tree of Life” synagogue mass murders in Pittsburgh.

Ms. Sarsour privately circulated a letter explaining her views on these matters.  I was and am deeply moved by it, and asked her permission to share it with the Jewish public.  She wrote back, “Please share as you see fit. Hope it brings some healing to broken hearts.  – Linda”

Here is her letter, followed by some comments of my own about ways in which she and I disagree, and other ways in which we agree.

I am requesting for all who read my email to approach it with an open mind and an open heart with the understanding that you may not agree with what I will put forth and that is okay with me. This is not an email to persuade or to convince, it is an email with my voice and my experience and my truth – one that may not be comfortable for some.

I know and recognize that our Jewish family is experiencing real pain, hurt and trauma. I know this stems from generational trauma and history of genocide and that these past few weeks have triggered insecurity, fear and anxiety. This is a difficult time and it requires us to be clear-eyed and also recognize the real threats so we can protect each other. We are all we got and this movement is all we got.

Background

The Farrakhan controversy began 8 months ago when Jake Tapper and Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL “exposed/ promoted” a video of the Minister Farrakhan at an annual gathering for the Nation of Islam called Saviour’s Day where Tamika D. Mallory was present along with 15,000 other people including many Black celebrities, business people, dignitaries and pastors. She was not a speaker.

Tamika has already discussed in length her longstanding relationship with the NOI after the brutal murder of her son’s father 17 years ago and the positive role NOI played in this Black single teen mother’s life. I won’t rehash this but note it here for context. We heard painful and yet loving critiques from our Jewish friends, we had conference calls, meetings, we put out a statement that came out a few days late BECAUSE we have Jewish women on our staff who were impacted personally and working through a statement that was going to speak to all the concerns was not something that could happen overnight. Since then conversations continued and our important work continued.

Then the horrific Tree of Life shooting happened that took the life of 11 innocent Jewish Americans and all of a sudden Women’s March was being asked to condemn the Minister Farrakhan. There was nothing new that happened between Women’s March and the Minister. Folks decided to rehash 8 months ago. A white supremacist walked into a synagogue and killed 11 innocent people and the focus became the Minister Farrakhan and the NOI.

A few days before that a white supremacist sent dozens of pipe bombs to notable figures and a day before that a white supremacist killed two Black people at Kroger’s (my Muslim American community also raised funds for these two innocent souls as well) after he could not get in to a locked Black church but here we were three women of color who are leading a powerful effective movement with millions of members being demanded to denounce Minister Farrakhan who had no relation to these white supremacists or these acts of violence.

Instead of coming together as a country to call out white supremacy and the violence being inspired by this Administration — the deflection went to a Black man who has no institutional power. —  This is a feature of white supremacy. 

Read more...

A Visit to a Settlement: A Catalyst for Righteous Anger

Nov17

by: Paul Von Blum on November 17th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

I have opposed the Israeli occupation and its settlements in the West Bank for as long as I can remember. I have been public about these views in my teaching, my public presentations, and in some of my writings. But until last July, I had never actually visited an Israeli settlement and seen how it works and how some of the people live. The experience has not changed my mind; indeed, it has actually reinforced my view that these settlements remain a colossal impediment to peace in the region and are an egregious violation of international law.

How it happened: I was part of a group organized by Academic Exchange for almost two weeks in early to mid July, 2018. Consisting of approximately 30 academics and a few other legal and diplomatic professionals, the group toured Israel and listened to experts from several fields with multiple perspectives. We mostly heard from Israeli authorities and spent the majority of time in Israeli settings but we also listened to several thoughtful Palestinian figures when we visited Ramallah. To its credit, Academic Exchange provided a multiple perspectives and experiences without any attempt to indoctrinate any particular viewpoint. It offered an outstanding opportunity to gain first-hand experience in Israel and Palestine, including a moving tour of Yad Vashem, and to meet and talk with many people living in this troubled and complex region of the world.

One of the early Academic Exchange visits was to the settlement of Eli in the occupied West Bank. Our bus from Tel Aviv had no trouble entering the area and going through the Israeli checkpoint; that, of course, would not be the case for Palestinians. Shortly before we arrived, an energetic, American-born, middle-aged woman joined us. She became our guide for the next several hours. Well educated, articulate, and extremely engaging, she accompanied us to her home in the settlement.


Read more...

Armistice-Veterans Day 2018

Nov12

by: on November 12th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

As human beings, we are a carbon-based life form.

We are close kin to the higher order apes.

We are homo sapiens, a bit of earth that can think.

We stand up straight; have an opposable thumb; have the capacity for rational thought; are able to use symbols to communicate abstract thoughts; we can use symbols to communicate about symbols; we can remember the past and plan for the future.

The gospel according to Jamie Lannister of the television version of “Game of Thrones”: “Strange thing, first time you cut a man, you realize we’re nothing but sacs of meat, blood and some bone to keep is all standing.”

I say: we are bags of water, flesh, blood, and bone called by a proper name.

We are body soul mind mysteries as long as we breathe the breath of life. We are character and personality that loves and hates, that laughs and cries, that sings and dances, that wills and desires, and sometimes just does not give a care. And when the breath leaves for the last time, our bodies become dust and ashes. We leave an empty space. Other human beings grieve.

The chemicals in our bodies are worth about one dollar.

So, what sense does it make to think that the color of the bag of water flesh blood and bone called by a proper name makes an individual more or less than any other? What sense does it make that the shape of it or the strength of it gives an individual the right to treat the Other as an object for one’s own drunken pleasure to be tossed away and forgotten like used tissue? What sense does it make that some bags think that they are superior because of the bit of earth upon which they were born or upon which they now stand or that they have a right to keep other bags from coming to that place? What makes the bags that we are fear the Other, hate the Other, and want to kill the Other to point of war?

World War I stands as one of the most deadly wars in the history of humankind. Between 15 and 19 million human beings died. Some 23 million military personnel were wounded. We do not know how many lives were shattered because of post-traumatic stress disorder, known at the time as shell shock.

Read more...

Light Shines Down on Our Tree of Life

Nov8

by: on November 8th, 2018 | Comments Off

Ner Tamid hanging in a synagogue. Image courtesy of FLLL/Wikimedia.

Days after eleven lives are extinguished, the ner tamid shines brightly. The ever-glowing light shines in every synagogue, never extinguished. It’s a remembrance of G-d’s fire-filled conversations with Abraham and Moses, a promise that the Jews will one day be as plentiful as the stars burning in the sky. The ner tamid continues to shine when there’s a bris, when there’s a marriage, when there’s a massacre.

Each synagogue is connected through these pinpricks of light, a map to a global community. The constellations light from every continent, shining bright in the darkness. Jews are guided among and between these North Stars, pointing the way toward a better world. As more people are guided to the light of each synagogue, the warmth of our community grows.

The spark of life within each of us darkens with each tragedy, but also drives us toward one another. At the Sacramento memorial gathering, the crowd pulses with emotion and one feels the vibration in the air. Mournful songs ring out, but there is also hope as people clap wildly for speakers who promise there is a brighter future. Behind me are a thousand people spread out within and between seats set up for a few hundred. The synagogue’s walls reverberate with communal love, and we shine together to reflect the darkness that comes after a massacre.

As the Hebrew mourning prayers surge through me, my grandfather’s memory rises within. The Holocaust was a dark shadow upon his life, and his family’s existence was a great middle finger to Nazis’ attempt to condemn his life. Tears stream down my face as I silently repeat, “Let it only be these 11. Please don’t let them have died in vain. Please, G-d, don’t let the light of our community dim like it did 80 years ago.”

Read more...

Isolation Versus Community

Nov8

by: on November 8th, 2018 | 4 Comments »

Tree of Life Synagogue

Tree of Life Synagogue / Creative Commons / Common Dreams

Last night after meeting with my LGBTQ book club and talking about social isolation, and what I had written but not yet posted about the massacre in Pennsylvania, I thought I should go ahead and post the piece here.

Then, this morning, I woke up to another massacre, this one in a Southern California club. In the hopes that in the midst of so many of our hearts breaking over the news, wondering what in the world we can do to make a difference, I post this so that it might be food for thought and perhaps food for action and hope.


Read more...

Voting, A Patriotic Duty

Nov6

by: on November 6th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

I am a black woman in America.

I am a woke black woman who has been woke before woke was cool.

I also love America.

I am an American patriot, an Angela Davis patriot. I heard Angela Davis explain to a television talk-show host that her activism did not come from a hatred of America, rather, it comes from her love for her country. Angela Davis patriotism is not a cheap “my country right or wrong” patriotism. It requires more than simply standing with hand over heart when the national anthem is performed before some sporting event. Angela Davis patriotism is filled with womanist virtues of love, responsibility, commitment, and complexity.

I love America because it is my home. The bones of my ancestors are interred in its ground. Their ashes are scattered over the waters that flow across the earth from its shores. The lives that they lived made America’s history that has become today becoming tomorrow. My West African ancestors came in the early 19th century in slave ships. They survived the horrors of the Middle Passage and the barbarisms of slavery and the injustices of Jim Crow to give me life and a country that allows me more opportunity than they ever had, that requires me to try my best to help this country become a more perfect union for all those who will come after me.

I do not know the story of my Irish and Scandinavian ancestors. I do not know how or when they came to the United States. I do not know the story behind the relationships that made them a part of me.

I do know that my ancestors have fought for their freedom and for the preservation of the United States. One of my ancestors walked away from slavery in Mississippi and joined the Union army to fight for his freedom. This summer my 96-year-old uncle who had served in North Africa and in Europe during World War II died. I have another uncle, now with the ancestors, who served in Vietnam as a member of the Special Forces. I have cousins who have made a career of the military. Some have served in America’s most recent wars. This spring I, a peace activist, pinned decorations on my nephew’s uniform on the occasion of his graduation from his Army basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, the same base where his grandfather completed his basic training before deploying to Korea to fight that war.

Read more...